Citizen app’s Protect security service is now available to everyone
Citizen is officially getting into the fear monetization game, with a paid service that might make you feel more secure.
On Tuesday, the crowdsourced public safety app launched Citizen Protect. The $ 19.99 / month service gives subscribers access to an on-demand protection agent, who they can turn to if they think they need – or might need – emergency assistance. A Citizen spokesperson told Recode that the company views Protect as a major part of the app’s profitability because it doesn’t sell ads or user information. Citizen built this platform, and now is the time to exploit it.
It’s a logical progression for Citizen – who has spent the past few years alerting users to crime, fires and car crashes in their neighborhoods – to offer a service that protects users or provides rapid emergency services in response to these same types of incidents. But Citizen may not have a reputation for success. The app was controversial from the start, accused of promoting self-defense and voyeurism in disasters. Even a few months ago, there was even a participatory manhunt for an innocent man, which was reportedly led by the CEO of the app.
Here’s how Protect works: Subscribers can be directly connected to a Protect agent by tapping Get Agent in their app, or they can swipe to activate Protect mode. Protection mode comes with distress detection, where Citizen’s AI listens through its microphone for obvious distress sounds (screams), then asks if they want to be connected to an agent (or automatically connects them if they don’t respond. quickly); or they can use the “Shake for Agent” option, where they are discreetly connected to an agent via text or audio / video chat if they shake their phone multiple times.
Once you are connected to a Protect agent, they can monitor your audio and video, send emergency responders to your location if needed, alert your family contacts and designated friends, direct you to the nearest safe space or create a public incident to be notified. Users around Citizen should be on the lookout for things like lost pets or missing persons. Protected Mode is currently available for iOS devices and is only in English.
Citizen has been testing Protect for several months, making it available to a group of nearly 100,000 beta testers. The company now believes it is ready to grow and offer Protect to its millions of users – or more, since the service is available all over the United States, and not just in the 60 cities in which Citizen currently operates.
Protect is similar to the services provided by some home security systems, OnStar Automotive Security Service, or Life Alert. All these subscription services offer on-call protection in specific circumstances: burglaries, fires, car accidents, breakdowns, medical emergencies. But Protect can be used wherever you go with your phone (assuming you have cell reception) and it can be used as a kind of digital bodyguard to watch over you if you find yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. It is able to detect your precise location in real time, which some 911 services still cannot. However, Protect is not a substitute for 911. In an emergency, call 911.
If you are a Citizen app user, you might feel particularly inclined to shell out $ 20 per month for that extra sense of security, as Citizen has especially made you aware that you might need it. The app uses technology and humans to retrieve calls to 911. Its human moderators review them and choose which to ignore and which to put on a map for users to see, sending push alerts to users when events occur. such as fires, car accidents and crimes occur in their area. Users can provide photos, videos, and live broadcasts of the scene – and other users can view, watch, and comment on them.
If you have the Citizen app, you’ve probably never known how many scary things are happening in your neighborhood so much, although they might not be as scary as the app makes it seem. Just because someone called 911 to report that they heard gunshots does not mean that the gunshots actually took place. But if you’ve seen that initial Citizen report, you might assume your neighborhood is being shot down. And then you might be more likely to think that the security service provided by Protect is worth it.
But it also means placing great trust in Citizen, and many would argue that he didn’t earn that trust. The app has been controversial since its inception as Vigilante, an app that was banned from Apple’s App Store shortly after its launch in 2016. In 2017, it was relaunched as Citizen, with the 911 scratch off function still in place but without the self-report function. that many feared targeting minorities or homeless people who appeared “suspect”. The feature has since returned, but Citizen says community reported incidents are reviewed by moderators before being placed on the map. “Suspicious Person” reports are not placed on the map.
Citizen’s more recent attempts to move from a social network of emergency alert voyeurism to a more proactive security service have not gone smoothly. A pilot program to provide on-demand private security guards – the upgrade of Citizen Protect’s digital bodyguard to a very real one – has been widely criticized as providing a service to the wealthy that could be used as a weapon against the low income people and minorities. It seems to have fizzled out for the moment. A week ago, reports revealed that Citizen was paying “field members” in certain cities to go out and broadcast live events, apparently to supplement what Citizen users are already providing for free and to attract more attention. towards more emergencies.
Perhaps most disturbing, Citizen’s new OnAir feature, which provides real-time updates and analysis of selected events with human hosts, has essentially put a $ 30,000 bounty on the head of a man they falsely identified as an “arson suspect”, starting a participatory manhunt for an innocent person. Much of it apparently came from the top: Citizen CEO Andrew Frame was reportedly particularly aggressive, telling employees in the company’s Slack room that he wanted to ‘FIND THIS FUCK’ and that ‘we hate it’ , while ordering these frequent notifications. about his research to be sent to the approximately 850,000 Citizen users in Los Angeles.
Citizen says its protection officers have gone through a rigorous training program, including a four-week certification course. But OnAir’s hosts also reportedly had standards and training, which were either insufficient or ignored when they believed they could mobilize Citizen users to hunt down a man they believed to be an arsonist.
This controversy does not appear to have hurt Citizen’s popularity with its users, however. It climbed to the top of the app store charts last summer during the mass protests, has over $ 130 million in funding and just announced it has hit $ 8 million. users. Now is the time to start cashing in and see if the spooky world Citizen helped create pays off.